Requiem for versatile genius Sadeq Khan

A.U.M. Fakhruddin
DESPITE the fact that the inevitability of the termination of human life for eternal rest is irrefutable, nevertheless exceptionally illustrious individuals survive in their good works, and are never forgotten. The late lamented eminent journalist Sadeq Khan (1936 – 2016) was one such personage. He was a founding member of the then prohibited Communist Party for which he was compelled to go underground for years as a result of which he contracted TB, then the most dreaded fatal disease. An activist in the Language Movement since its inception in 1948, Sadek Khan was arrested by police from the meeting of the students’ action committee and was jailed for over a month.
A luminary in the intellectual sphere, he was contributing editor of the weekly Holiday since its inception in September 1965. Through his analytical cogently argued articles in both English and Bengali, Sadeq Bhai championed the cause of the people’s civil liberties till the last day of his life.
Liberation War and his moment of truth
Known as the “Butcher of Bengal”, Lt. Gen.Tikka Khan’s Pakistani junta troops killed 7,000 people in Dhaka on the night of 25 March 1971; thus unleashing genocide which killed 3 (three) million people. The Pakistani military junta cracked down on the unarmed masses. The entire scenario was in a flux and utter confusion pervaded; however the Liberation War began—that was Sadeq Khan’s moment of truth to respond to the call of the motherland.
During the Liberation War, Sadeq Khan worked with the government in exile and was informally assigned for logistic support and external publicity, keeping connection with the Sector Commanders and cultural activists. He also worked for mobilising global support in favour of our War of Independence getting in touch with Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury in London and the ‘Man’s Fate’ novel-famed author and Spanish Civil War fighter André Malreaux in France, in October-November 1971.
French novelist, art historian, and statesman Malraux (1901—1976) who became an active supporter of Gen. Charles de Gaulle. After de Gaulle was elected president in 1958 and served for 10 years as France’s minister of cultural affairs.
Avant-garde director of
‘Nodi o Nari’
With realism blended with the Marxist humanism, these films showed the post-war wretched situation of the ordinary people in the refugee camps. Shot in poor locality and convenient location neorealist films were conspicuous by their long take style
The dialogue of the film focused on conversational script and not the scripted dialogue. Italian Neorealism film movement and its proponents like Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti and Rossellini immensely influenced him.
The young aficionado Sadeq Khan’s passionate pursuit for the avant-garde cinema—took him to New Delhi where he obtained from Prof. Humayun Kabir the right to make a movie based on his novel ‘Nodi o Nari’ .
The novel tells the story of mostly underprivileged people like Asgar, Amina, Noju Miah, Joitun, Malek, Nuru, Pir and Aziz — played respectively by Masud Ali Khan, Rawshan Ara, Kazi Khaleq, Bilkis Bari, Guddu Bari, Feroza Begum Golam Mustafa and Subhash Dutta. Others in the cast were Nejamatullah, Jarina, Ashish Kumar Loho, Afzal Karim, Dipti Saha and Haralal Roy. With Murtaja Baseer’s screenplay it was directed by Sadeq Khan.
Oeuvres of painters
Basically a student of Physics that deals with motion, structure of atoms, cryogenics and what have you, Sadeq Khan later became an ardent student of the liberal arts, and in course of time a painting aesthete. He became keen on the oeuvres of Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, Sheikh Mohammad Sultan, Quamrul Hassan, Murtaza Baseer, Rashid Choudhury, Shafiuddin Ahmed, Mohammad Kibria, Hamidur Rahman, Aminul Islam, Syed Jahangir et al.
Afterwards he had a scrupulous exposure to masters of the European art during his long stay in London. His art reviews had a liberal tone because he felt that painters deserve encouragement.
‘Declassed’ comrade
Through his analytical cogently argued articles in both English and Bengali, Sadeq Bhai championed the cause of the people’s civil liberties till the last day of his life.
In Marxism, classless society, the ultimate condition of social organization, is expected to occur when true communism is achieved. A Marxist in his youth, Sadeq’s contemporaries are of the opinion that he was a practising “declassed” (déclassé) comrade.
A declassed person is one who has forfeited his ties with his social class with the object to express and establish solidarity with the working class. Not surprisingly, in those days he was often seen eating his lunch with working class people like coolies and laborers on Sadarghat riverbank and the Dhaka railway station at Phulbaria spending 035 (thirty-five) poisha or so—roughly one-third of a Taka.
This scribe vividly remembers how—two decades back—he could produce splendid editorials for The Independent on fiscal strategy, monetary policy issues and on other complex topics amid noise of the National Press Club dining room or in the hubbub of the Sonargao Hotel’s lobby. He did this with astonishing speed, seldom going through reference materials.
Sadeq Khan was Chairman of the Gonoshasthya Kendra Trust. He was also the honorary Chairman of Bangladesh Press Institute and honorary President of Alliance Française de Dhaka.
A versatile genius, the late lamented Sadeq Bhai was gracious and soft-spoken; and his delightful smile gave the impression of his dignified deportment. Almost certainly he was incapable of being annoyed or inconsiderate.
Last but not least, enlightened Sadeq Bhai’s smiling face and cherished memory will live on.
[The writer is Associate Editor of the Holiday. He may be reached at ]

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